From making holiday baskets for the homeless to spending quality time with animal shelter dogs, there are so many volunteer opportunities in the state of Louisiana. Our state boasts impressive nonprofit organizations doing life-changing things in the community, and there is always a need for help. With the help of Volunteer Louisiana, you can connect with the right organization to make a meaningful impact.
Volunteer Louisiana was founded under the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. It oversees the AmeriCorps programs in the state and promotes national service and volunteerism by connecting potential volunteers with local nonprofits.
Kori Chisham, Director of Communications and Volunteer Outreach, says the organization uses an online database and social media to connect people with organizations in the state. “Volunteers call us saying they are new to the area and want to help out. We look up our resources and connect them. We’re kind of like a referral agency,” she says.
However, after the flood of 2016, Volunteer Louisiana expanded its focus to encompass environmental and disaster services. The organization was awarded a federal grant to collaborate with the government to increase disaster volunteerism. Chisham says Louisiana has an ongoing need for disaster volunteers, and those volunteers need to be engaged from response to long-term recovery.
Judd Jeansonne, Executive Director, says Volunteer Louisiana’s main role within disaster volunteerism is to find the people who aren’t affiliated with an organization, take the volunteer energy, and get it affiliated with an organization. “If you don’t have a system to manage volunteers, you can have a second disaster. We want to make sure they don’t get in harm’s way,” Jeansonne says.
Volunteer Louisiana is also deeply involved in AmeriCorps, a domestic organization that allows people to serve the United States.
The organization also recognizes volunteers in the community for their hard work and dedication. People can request a certificate to serve as recognition and a thank you. If volunteers perform over 150 hours of service, they can also receive a lapel pin.
“I’ve always been inspired by people who give selflessly to a cause or organization,” Chisham says. “To be able to make those individual volunteers feel special, that’s what keeps me motivated.”
One reason service is so important is that it changes people for the better. Not only does it transform a community, but it also transforms the people who serve. Jeansonne explains, “People come in and tutor kids and build access ramps, and when you engage in service, it changes you for the better. It makes you strong and develops empathy and compassion. To be around that and see the impact of national service and volunteerism, that’s just an amazing thing to be around.”
Volunteer Louisiana hopes to expand and diversify the service opportunities available. Environmental and disaster efforts are just one way they will do that. The organization also hopes to spotlight more volunteers and show the community the great work so many people are doing right here in Louisiana. ■